Lions History

Historical Events

  • 1910: Argentina

    The RFU has never been seen as a hotbed of radicalism, but in 1910 they saw fit to supervise the assembly of a ‘Combined British’ team to visit Argentina to celebrate the centenary of the country’s revolution.

  • 1888: Australia and New Zealand

    England cricketer Arthur Shrewsbury organised the first overseas rugby tour from the British Isles in an attempt to recover the losses he had accumulated in taking a cricket team round Australia.

  • 1891: South Africa

    The RFU followed Shrewsbury’s lead by sending their own side to South Africa in 1891 – but avoided the same financial fate by insisting Cape Colony prime minister Cecil Rhodes underwrite the trip.

  • 1896: South Africa

    Finding the opposition much tougher than on their first visit to South Africa, the tourists tightened up accordingly and restricted themselves to no more than four glasses of champagne before playing.

  • 1899: Australia

    The tourists of 1899 had three things in common with their successors of 1989: they were the only sides of the 19th and 20th centuries to tour in Australia alone and remain the only Lions to win a series after losing the opening Test. And they both found themselves caught up in a war of words with the Aussie press.

  • 1903: South Africa

    Having won their first Test against the Lions in 1896, South Africa continued improving to take their first series victory on the next occasion they hosted visitors from the British Isles.

  • 1904: Australia and New Zealand

    By 1904, the bulk of the matches in a Lions tour were still scheduled for Australia; the greatest challenge, however, was being posed by New Zealand.

  • 1908: Australia and New Zealand

    In 1908 a British Isles tour to Australasia was planned as a means of halting the advance of rugby league there. In the event, the side that travelled was an Anglo-Welsh combination, after the Scottish and Irish unions refused to sanction their players’ involvement.

  • 1910: South Africa

    The 1910 Lions tour was all about one man, the genius ‘Cherry’ Pillman, and his revolutionary approach to wing forward play. But it almost never reached its conclusion as manager William Cail led his team out on strike in protest against the tough itinerary they faced two thirds of the way through.

  • 1924: South Africa

    1924 was the year the Lions nickname began to stick. Although the Lion had been used since the earliest of tours to represent the tourists in cartoons and the like, it was only in 1924 that the title slipped into common usage as the South African press looked for a pithier alternative to their new official title of the British Isles Rugby Union Team.

  • 1927: Argentina

    By the inter-war period, the Lions were still happy to take on a missionary role in Latin America – as long as they were not the ones paying for it.

  • 1930: New Zealand and Australia

    The New Zealand leg of the 1930 Lions tour was eventful to say the least. The tourists won their first Test in the country, made the All Blacks play in All White and survived the sort of split in the ranks that fractured the 2001 party in Australia.

  • 1936: Argentina

    The 1936 Lions blazed another trail of record results throughout their nine-game tour of Argentina, even though they had been forced to cut their shipboard training short after Prince Obolensky kicked all their balls over the side of the boat.

  • 1938: South Africa

    The Lions ended the inter-war period on a high note with a dramatic – and unexpected –victory over South Africa in Cape Town.

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